The artistic energy in Kansas City is undeniable. I speak with my colleagues nationally and internationally and they all want to know what is causing this artistic surge in our great region.
By JANE CHU
Special to The Star
I tell them its a simple formula Kansas City supports the arts and the arts support Kansas City. We have accomplished artists. We have vibrant arts organizations, large and small. We have a dedicated philanthropic community. And, we have elected leaders who are willing to engage.
The entire metropolitan area receives tangible benefits as a result of our regions support of the arts. Set aside, for a moment, the pleasure we get when patrons attend a Kauffman Center performance. Set aside the wonderment of a child walking through the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and seeing some of the best examples of visual arts in the world. Set aside our community coming together from all over the region every First Friday in our Crossroads neighborhood to experience a fusion of visual, performance and, even, gastronomical arts.
My conversations as part of Mayor Sly James Task Force for the Arts reaffirm what my colleagues know around the world arts and culture in Kansas City are at a defining moment. We are at the stage where the arts can support the growth of our regional economy in multiple ways.
This starts with working with the tens of thousands of children in our region; giving them experiences in the arts that help them succeed academically and socially. It means providing excellent education opportunities through UMKCs Conservatory of Music and Dance and the Kansas City Art Institute. Graduates of those institutions become a vibrant part of our community as artists and entrepreneurs, starting companies in diverse fields, and developing new technologies. The arts have also become a strategy for attracting workers from other regions. Talented professionals, who can move anywhere they want, seek out vibrant places to live, as much as they seek a specific job.
Arts activities combined with residential housing, restaurants and businesses increase economic market opportunities and allow for a varied and stable tax base. The arts heighten a citys quality of life. They attract tourism and conventions that bring in additional public activities and private dollars from outside the city. The arts, entertainment and leisure industries provide more employment opportunities. Thats the new economy, and our region is well positioned to take advantage of the momentum that is building, to foster creativity and create a place for people to participate and belong.
However, our regions potential success is far from guaranteed. We need citizens to participate in making the vision for arts and our growing economy a reality. Weigh in on the draft from the Mayors Task Force. The report can be found at kcmayor.org, and please fill out the simple survey. Yet, there is more you can do to ensure that our region supports the arts. As arts funding cuts are contemplated at the state and national levels, this is a good time to contact your legislators and let them know you believe in our region and the economic engine of the arts, and tell them to keep the vital funding for the arts.
Arts organizations and artists make very efficient use of every dollar invested, and the return for our community is multiplied in many ways. To keep our momentum, we need the community to stand up for the arts as patrons and volunteers, and call upon our elected officials to understand the true value of the arts.
Jane Chu of Kansas City is the president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.